Senate confirms Comey as FBI director
July 29th, 2013
06:43 PM ET
8 years ago

Senate confirms Comey as FBI director

(CNN) – Nearly 40 days after President Barack Obama nominated James Comey as FBI director, the Senate on Monday approved the appointment of the former deputy attorney general who worked in the George W. Bush administration.

The vote came after Sen. Rand Paul dropped his opposition to a confirmation vote on Comey, clearing the path for the Senate to vote on the president’s nominee.

In the 93-1 vote, Paul was the only senator who voted against the confirmation.

Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, had blocked a confirmation vote this summer while demanding answers from the law enforcement agency about the legal use of surveillance drones in the United States.

The FBI had responded to his questions twice as of last week, saying they acquire a warrant before using a drone when a suspected individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. But Paul sent another letter Thursday asking for more clarification on the FBI’s understanding of a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Paul announced Monday that the FBI had responded again, reiterating that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment would “apply to all of our investigations and any collection of information.”

Although he wasn’t satisfied with the answer, he decided to withdraw his hold on Comey’s nomination.

“I disagree with this interpretation. However, given the fact that they did respond to my concerns over drone use on U.S. soil, I have decided to release my hold on the pending FBI director nominee,” Paul said in a statement.

On Monday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called on senators to support Comey so the FBI could have a confirmed director before Congress breaks for its month-long August recess and before the 12-year tenure of the current director, Robert Mueller, ends in September.

The Vermont Democrat noted this was the first time an FBI director nominee had been filibustered in history. Obama nominated Comey on June 21.

“We should be voting to confirm James Comey tonight. It has already taken twice as long to bring this nomination up for a vote in the full Senate as for any previous FBI director,” Leahy said in a statement. “No other FBI director has waited longer than 20 days from nomination to confirmation. The FBI director plays a vital role in our national security, and the Senate must put an end to these routine delays.”

President Barack Obama applauded the Senate vote Monday evening.

"Jim is a natural leader of unquestioned integrity," he said in a statement. "With Jim at the Bureau’s helm, I know that the FBI will be in good hands long after I’ve left office."

He further called on the Senate to confirm Todd Jones, his nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In his role as deputy attorney general during the Bush administration, Comey received both praise and criticism from outside groups. Comey testified to a Senate committee in 2007 that he had considered resigning his high-profile position over a disagreement three years earlier about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program.

Government officials had told CNN that Comey had "vigorously opposed" aspects of the warrantless wiretapping program and refused to sign off on its continued use. The program was eventually reauthorized.

Comey’s nomination came as the Obama administration has wrestled this summer with its own controversy surrounding NSA surveillance.

Human rights groups have criticized Comey's alleged support of other controversial Bush-era national security policies such as indefinite detention and detainee treatment programs such as waterboarding.

Since leaving government, Comey has worked in executive positions at defense contractor Lockheed Martin and the financial management firm Bridgewater and Associates.

Most recently he worked in academia as a senior research scholar and Hertog Fellow in National Security Law at Columbia Law School.

For his part, Paul has been a leading voice on seeking answers about the legal use of drones by the U.S. government in counterterrorism operations overseas. He led a filibuster earlier this year, blocking a vote on Obama's nomination of John Brennan as CIA director while he pressed for answers about the government's policy for drone strikes in the United States.

In its previous correspondence with Paul, the FBI revealed in an unclassified letter dated July 19 that it has used unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance in 10 cases on U.S. soil - eight of them criminal and two involving national security.

“None of the unmanned aerial vehicles used by the FBI are armed with either lethal or non-lethal weapons, and the FBI has no plans to use weapons with UAVs,” wrote FBI Assistant Director Stephen Kelly.

Drones were authorized for surveillance in three other criminal cases, but they were not used, according to the letter.

While CNN previously reported the FBI has used drones on U.S. soil about a dozen times, the recent letter marked the first time it broke the number down between criminal cases and national security cases.

The letter listed examples of drone use, including in the case of a 5-year-old child held hostage in an underground bunker in Alabama earlier this year.

But Paul said last week the new information was not enough to answer his questions.
Paul first issued a letter about drone surveillance last month asking Mueller about the FBI’s policies. When he received no response, he sent a second letter on July 9, saying he would object to the consideration of Comey as Mueller's successor until he received "adequate answers" to his questions.

The FBI sent two responses this month, one classified and one unclassified.

In the unclassified version, the FBI went on the record about the 10 cases of drone surveillance. The FBI also maintained that it would acquire a warrant before using a drone when the suspected individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Paul sent a new letter on Thursday, asking for more clarification on the FBI’s understanding of a "reasonable expectation of privacy."

"I am concerned that an overbroad interpretation of this protection would enable more substantial information collection on an individual in a circumstance they might not have believed was subject to surveillance," the letter stated.

He also pressed for copies of educational and training material the FBI uses on such matters.

- CNN’s Adam Aigner-Treworgy, Carol Cratty, Ted Barrett and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

Filed under: Congress • FBI • James Comey • Rand Paul • Senate • Uncategorized
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Rand Paul's blocking of a confirmation vote for this man is just one more example of Paul's irrational behavior. This is even a stupid move for a person who is desperate to get his name in the news, hoping to make a run for the presidency. I'm becoming more and more convinced each day that Rand Paul isn't just incredibly stupid, but possibly mentally Imbalanced.

    July 29, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. mdcambridge

    "Reasonable expectation of privacy?" Really?

    When the public signed up for Skype, they were told that it was encrypted and could not be intercepted; hence, we had a "reasonable expectation of privacy."

    When the FISA court forced Microsoft to give them the power to decrypt and record Skype audio and video without informing the public, this is a clear breach of the 4th Amendment under the court's metric: "reasonable expectation of privacy."

    July 29, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Sen Rand Paul is an obstructionist who is uses archaic Senate rules to further his own personal agenda.

    July 29, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. Hillcrester

    Rand Paul is setting himself up to be the darling of the Libertarian/TP segment of the GOP Presidential candidate selection electorate AND an unacceptable general election candidate should the GOP foolishly nominate him. He is becoming the poster child for GOP obstructionism and petty partisanship.

    July 29, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  5. sparks2000

    the Senate on Monday approved the appointment of the former deputy attorney general who worked in the George W. Bush administration. -–well THATS comforting--not

    July 29, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  6. nik green

    And so America continues down the well-traveled road that leads to the cul-de-sac of dystopia and Orwellianism... like lambs to the slaughter. brought into line by the mantra of 'national security".

    July 29, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. Ron

    Unfortunately I remember when the FBI filmed peaceful protesters against the Viet Nam war. The FBI has also infiltrated (in other words, spied on) non-violent peace groups, even Quakers (and not that long ago). The current modes of surveillance have the potential to be even more intrusive. Obama says he "welcomes a conversation" about all of this. Thanks to Snowden, there is at least some conversation–but of course the Obama Administration along with Republicans and Democrats consider Snowden to be a traitor.

    July 29, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. svann

    from reuters:
    "Comey served as deputy U.S. attorney general for President George W. Bush, a Republican, from 2003 to 2005. He gained a reputation for being willing to buck authority when he refused in 2004 to certify aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program."

    Good man. Stands up for what he believes in.

    July 29, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  9. Freedom Not Feds

    It takes an evil person to work for an evil government.

    July 29, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  10. Jason

    LOL Obama slapped the liberals so hard in their faces that their heads are still spinning

    July 29, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  11. John Spieker

    Great, we did not have enough of Bush's corruption. We do not have enough blatant disregard for Americans privacy now. So let's just stick one of George Dumya Bush's already corrupt idiots in there... That makes sense...

    Of course Cnn will never let this comment be seen, as they are bought and sold as well.

    July 29, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  12. Andy Klein

    Unarmed surveillance drones are safer, cheaper, and more sensible for FBI and DHS missions than manned helicopters. Rand Paul, you're a moron!

    July 29, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  13. Randall Norris`

    We should have just kept Bush. Obama has kept all his people. He's a great Republican! Too bad I voted for a Democrat. Boy was I fooled.

    July 29, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  14. Larry L

    "The vote came after Sen. Rand Paul dropped his opposition to a confirmation vote on Comey, clearing the path for the Senate to vote"
    Rand Paul would be the first person to be "outraged" if a preventable terror attack happened in the U.S. He is exactly why the Republican Party is hosed for the 2016 election. America has no patience for radicals who want to return to a utopian age that never actually existed. Kentucky should be ashamed for sending this sort of fool to the U.S. Senate.

    July 29, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  15. BOBOBo

    The problem lies on Obama's buddy, Eric Holder of DOJ with some questionable authority. Brave, Paul. You did a fantastic job and show Mr. DJ of DOJ circuit how to behave and work...

    July 29, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  16. Justin

    One person was blocking the vote and the guy gets confirmed 93 – 1??? Rand Paul is grandstanding to try and get a nomination in 2016... No matter how many temper tantrums and hissy fits he throws, he will not get the nomination, he is unelectable in a general election.

    July 29, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  17. Soren

    Rand Paul needs to wake up and smell the roses.

    July 29, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  18. ishiibrad

    A former deputy attorney general who worked in the George W. Bush administration. Now,if that doesn`t make me fell all warm and fuzzy inside.The more things move along the more I believe Snowden over our governments of today!

    July 29, 2013 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  19. John

    Obama = Bush with steroids

    July 29, 2013 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  20. Jack

    It just show what Rand Paul is! If Kentuckians send him back to Senate, it will show rest of us what sad state of affairs Kentucky is in!

    July 29, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  21. ALLuh

    AWE, he knows his stuff, politics aside, i'm sure he knows my address and phone number.

    July 29, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  22. Jerry

    I agree with Paul on this one. If only he and his nutbar daddy could keep their false god & their religious beliefs out of their politics.....

    July 29, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  23. eric

    Obama sure likes keeping Bush Era hold-overs.

    July 29, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  24. JOE B

    There's no difference between either party. This is proof that it's all window dressing. Until we start voting for third party candidates nothing will change. They pretend they are different but when they get behind closed doors they agree to keep the very same people running the government.

    July 30, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  25. biologixco

    President Cheney's PERSONAL pick~!
    The Great Oz lives on.

    July 30, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
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